Life is a challenge, meet it
– Sri Sathya Sai Baba
One of the nerve-wracking challenges in life is the bad boss in the office.
I’ve got one ! [Source]
The boss can be a man or a woman, it really doesn’t matter. But when he/she is really a bully, a micromanager, a dictator, a terrible communicator, a saboteur, a credit-thief on the sly, a scatter brain or a disorganized brat who doesn’t care much about the employee’s well-being, then that is a tough situation, isn’t it? When the boss’s conduct is less than honest, that makes it even tougher. Still the bad boss is only a challenge. It will remain so till I allow it to become a problem. Whether the bad boss becomes my problem or not depends on how I play this challenging card that I’m dealt with.
Oh, Really? [Source]
Google “bad boss’” and you will find about 8 million results; google “boss problems” and you get about 60 million results!
Feeling crushed by a bad boss! [Source]
The “boss problem” is serious and stressful. Especially when I’m undergoing it. I worry about losing my job. I definitely end up losing my health, get depressed and develop heart-related problems among other things. The problem ricochets on my family members as well. They reverberate my frustrations and lose their joy of life. In the USA, on an average, I spend about 30 % of my work week sweating this problem. There is a 77 % chance that I become sick as a result.
How to handle the “bad boss” situation? What can I do to maintain a sense of balance in this difficult situation? A number of do’s and don’ts are available in our scriptures for this. Let me share a few.
The basic thrust of the scriptural teaching is to first strengthen my mind and emotions, then segue into applying a variety of skills and tools to neutralize the bad boss challenge.
Do’s: A few things I must do.
A problem or a challenge? [Source]
Accept this as a challenge, not as a problem.
“At this intricate moment, where did you get this confusion and cowardly thinking from? Kutastvaa kasmalam idam vishame samupasthitam” [Bhagavad Gita (BG) 2.2]
Honestly, when I take this as a problem and get stressed out, I’m confused and think like a coward. A bad boss is not a problem. It is a challenge to learn from. It’ll bring out the best in me.
Resolve to meet the challenge.
” Don’t be a spineless coward! That is not you! Give up the despicable feebleness of the mind at once. Get up! Klaibyam maa sma gamah paartha na etat tvayi upapadhyate| kshudram hrudyaya dowrbhalyam taktvaa uththishta||” [BG 2.3]
Instead of feeling victimized and suffering from fear, insecurity and a sense of humiliation, I must rise up to the challenge in a positive way.
Meet the challenge powerfully.
“You must progress by your own efforts. Uddaret aatmana aatmaanam” [BG 6.5]
- Understand the nature of the “bad boss” situation. Is it because my boss’s and my working styles are incompatible? Or is my professional and emotional maturity or contribution at work falling a bit short? Or is the boss or I having a bad day? Or is the boss just not qualified to be a boss?
- Focus on maintaining a positive relationship with the boss. Separate the “bad boss situation” from the boss.
- Where possible, proactively defuse a difficult situation before it arises.
- If the boss throws a temper tantrum, I can politely and tactfully excuse myself and leave the room.
- If the boss is a bully, I can be politely but firmly assertive.
- When the boss is a micromanager, I can proactively supply details.
- When the boss is a terrible communicator,I can make up for it, and communicate frequently to clarify my work and expected results.
- When the boss takes credit for my work, I can happily give it to him. Am I short-changed if this happens? Short-term, may be. Long-term, no. This attitude, giving the credit to others, really makes me a stronger person and benefits me more in the long run.
- When the boss is less than honest or operates on the edge of ethics, I can decouple and move to another group or company. If this is not possible, I can choose not to be part of such practices.
- When the boss is a scatter brain or highly disorganized, I can manage him/her to the extent required to get my work organized enough and move on
The four pillars of happiness [Source]
Erect and strengthen the four pillars of happiness.
- Mental pillar of work-attitude. I must do the work diligently to the best of my ability but really not be that much concerned with the result. The result will follow of its own accord. I must develop the attitude to experience success and failure, praise and humiliation as two sides of the same coin. [BG 2.38, 2.47, 2.50]
- Verbal pillar of purity of speech. I must speak without harming my boss, colleagues and myself, speak the truth, speak in moderation and kindly [BG 17.15]
- Physical pillar of “work as worship”. I must do my work as a service to my boss, colleagues and the organization with gratitude and not with a sense of entitlement.[BG 11.55]
- Strength pillar of patience and forbearance. Patience and forbearance are truly all the strength I need to handle the “bad boss” challenge, knowing fully well “this too shall pass”.
Understand the boss as a person and adjust.
I must act with restraint rather than react to provocation. Simultaneously, I must co-operate instead of becoming an adversary.
Understand the situation for what it really is.
It is an opportunity to improve my mental strength and emotional balance. It is a chance to flip an adversity into an advantage.
Dont’s: A few things I must not do.
Not take this personally and blame myself for the situation.
You are your own friend and your own enemy. A friend when you uplift yourself. An enemy when you downgrade yourself. [From BG 6.5]. Taking this as somehow my personal fault and blaming myself for it downgrades me. It weakens me.
Not hate my boss. [BG 12.13]
Hatred is a cancer without cure. It is a poison that I drink expecting the other person to die.
Not be defensive in dealing with the boss.
A defensive attitude and approach worsen an already difficult situation.
Not react to the boss’s behavior but act with self-restraint.
Paying back the boss’s temper tantrums and bullying tactics in kind only fuels the bad situation into an explosive one. I learned from my grandmother that it takes two hands to clap. A committed and enthusiastic mental, emotional and verbal self-restraint will help cool the situation a lot.
Not download my frustrations on my family and spoil their happiness.
Obviously, I shouldn’t do this. I must learn to leave behind the work-related frustrations and challenges at the place of work. It is my mistake, and not the boss’s, if I let my family members suffer because of this.
Not contribute to worsening the situation in anyway.
A boss can create a difficult situation but cannot make it more difficult than what it is. It is I who can make it worse or better with what I do or don’t do.
It is always best to hold on to Truth in any situation. A difficult situation such as dealing with a bad boss in the office is a reminder to do this and is not an exception. Bhagavad Gita (15.7) teaches
It is the same Effulgence that is in all beings in the universe. Mamaivaamso jeeva loke jeeva bhootas sanaatanah [15.7]
If I remind myself of this Truth and operate on that basis, that helps tremendously in dealing with the bad boss situation.
As nerve-wracking as handling a bad boss is, its impact is smaller than a mosquito prick in the expanse of time. Even after doing all the things I can to turn the challenge into a positive outcome, and if the situation continues to be unbearable, then it is time for me to look for a job elsewhere. No amount of money is worth losing one’s health and happiness.
[The current challenge that a dear person is experiencing prompted the writing of this blog]